E-Verify program

by Fred Elbel

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal workers. To comply with this law, employers must collect information regarding an employee's identity and employment eligibility and document that information on Form I-9. An employee must provide certain information on the form, such as name and date of birth, as well as present supporting documents.

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify offers employers a powerful tool in protecting themselves against those who try to cheat the system. The E-verify program verifies the status of newly hired employees, while the IMAGE certification program examines older hiring records in order to detect phony documents used by illegal alien workers.

E-Verify is fast, free and easy to use, and it's the best way employers can ensure a legal workforce. E-Verify compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.

U.S. law requires companies to employ only individuals who may legally work in the United States - either U.S. citizens, or foreign citizens who have the necessary authorization.

More than 409,000 employers, large and small, across the United States use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of their employees, with about 1,300 new businesses signing up each week.

While participation in E-Verify is voluntary for most businesses, some companies may be required by state law or federal regulation to use E-Verify. For example, most employers in Arizona and Mississippi are required to use E-Verify. E-Verify is also mandatory for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause.

E-Verify's most impressive features are its speed and accuracy. E-Verify is the only service that verifies employees' data against millions of government records and provides results within seconds. There's no other program that provides the same peace of mind in such little time.

E-Verify compares the information an employee provides on Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, against millions of government records and generally provides results in three to five seconds. If the information matches, that employee is eligible to work in the United States. If there's a mismatch, E-Verify will alert the employer and the employee will be allowed to work while he or she resolves the problem.

How E-Verify works

E-Verify is closely linked to Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, and exists to strengthen the Form I-9 employment eligibility verification process that all employers, by law, must follow. While participation in E-Verify is voluntary for most employers, completion of Form I-9 is required of all employers.

E-Verify works by comparing information entered from an employee's Form I-9 to 455 million Social Security Administration (SSA) records and 80 million U.S. Department of Homeland Security records.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security databases contain records about employment-based visas, immigration and naturalization status, and U.S. passport issuance, which allow E-Verify to compare information against a wide variety of sources.

By adding E-Verify to the existing Form I-9 employment eligibility verification process, a company can benefit from the peace of mind of knowing that it maintains a legal workforce.

Before a company can use E-Verify to verify the employment eligibility of its employees, the company and employee must first complete Form I-9. All of the Form I-9 rules that companies followed before signing up for E-Verify still apply with two exceptions.

  • Employees must provide their Social Security numbers on Form I-9. (Providing a Social Security number on Form I-9 is voluntary unless the employer participates in E-Verify.)
  • Any List B document that employees present must contain a photo. (Some List B documents without photos are acceptable unless the employer participates in E-Verify.)

Once Form I-9 is completed, the company enters the information from Form I-9 into E Verify. Depending on the documents an employee provides, the employer may have to compare a photo displayed on a computer screen to the photo on the employee's document. The photos should match, which ensures the document photo is genuine and hasn't been altered.

Once the information has been entered and submitted, E-Verify will compare it against millions of government records. If the information entered matches, E-Verify will return an "Employment Authorized" result. This confirms the employee is authorized to work in the United States. After printing the results page and attaching it to the employee's Form I-9 (or recording the employee's E-Verify case verification number on the form itself), the employer simply closes the case to complete the E-Verify process.

If there is  a mismatch, E-Verify will return a "Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC)" result. If this happens, the employer needs to print and review a notice with the employee that explains the cause of the mismatch and what it means for the employee.

If the employee decides to contest the mismatch, the employer will refer the case in E-Verify to the appropriate agency (either the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Social Security Administration) and print a letter that it must give to the employee. The letter contains important instructions and contact information that the employee will need to resolve the mismatch. The employee then has eight federal government work days from the date the case was referred in E-Verify to resolve the problem.

E-Verify will alert the employer of an update in the employee's case. If the employee successfully resolves the mismatch, E-Verify will return a result of employment authorized. If the employee doesn't resolve the mismatch, E-Verify will return a final nonconfirmation result. Only after an employee receives a final nonconfirmation may an employer terminate an employee based on E-Verify.

In rare cases, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or the Social Security Administration might need more time to verify the employee's employment eligibility.

When this happens, E-Verify will return a case in continuance result. When an employee's case is in continuance the employer must allow the employee to continue to work until E-Verify gives a final result of "Employment Authorized" or a "Final Nonconfirmation."

This page provides general information about E-Verify and is meant to provide an overview of the program. For instructions and policy guidance, visit the For Employers and For Employees sections of the website.

Business-Friendly E-Verify Features

Companies are already required by law to complete Form I-9 for each newly hired employee, and E-Verify works seamlessly with the Form I-9 process to confirm employment eligibility.

  • Secure 24-hour access: Access E-Verify anytime, anywhere with no special software required. All that is needed is a Web browser and Internet access.
  • Instant results: Employment eligibility results for most employees are displayed in three to five seconds.
  • Error checking: E-Verify can alert employees to mismatches and possible errors in their government records. Clearing up errors sooner rather than later saves employees time and frustration down the road.
  • Photo matching: E-Verify features a photo matching tool to combat document fraud and ensure the documents that employees present are genuine.
  • Compliance peace of mind: Companies that properly use E-Verify get a rebuttable presumption that they are in compliance with Form I-9 and employment eligibility laws.
  • User access flexibility: With two different user roles to choose from, companies can select what their users can see and do in E-Verify.
  • Usage reports: E-Verify offers companies the ability to monitor usage to assist with their compliance efforts.
  • Implementation flexibility: With E-Verify, companies can decide their participation on a location-by-location basis (state laws and federal regulations may limit use of this feature).
  • Support for large companies: E-Verify offers features through its corporate administrator access method that allow companies to link and manage their locations that use E-Verify.
  • Interactive training: E-Verify offers a comprehensive online tutorial as well as quick reference guides, user manuals and other publications to assist users.
  • Customer service: You're never on your own with E-Verify. E-Verify customer support is available to provide you with technical and program assistance.

More information about E-Verify

US Citizenship and Immigration Services E-Verify resources.

Questions and Answers about E-Verify by NumbersUSA.

USCIS E-Verify Employers Search Tool. The tool is simple to use, but the biggest problem here is knowing the legal name of the company and their E-Verify address. You might call the company and ask for their company name and legal address, and while you are at it, ask if they use E-Verify. If they don't, ask how they make sure their workers are legal. Let them know it is important to you.

The federal contractor E-Verify list is not easy to use as it does not list by state or by alphabetical order. Colorado's State contractors are required to use E-Verify. See if the contractors on your bid list do business with the state.

History and Milestones of E-Verify.